ABM strategies: How to max your owned channels
Exclaimer’s Director of Demand Generation, Benjamin O’Dell, spoke to Justin Keller, VP Revenue Marketing at Drift, and Dan Cafiero, Senior Program Manager at Seagate Technology, to find out what tangible actions you can take to launch an ABM strategy and discover more about the ABM strategies they’ve implemented.
You can watch the full webinar here, which includes detailed slides on the full tech stack Justin and Dan use to execute their ABM strategies.
Read on for our key takeaways and top tips for implementing an effective ABM marketing strategy.
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing is a strategy that targets a select group of high-value accounts with tailored marketing and sales support. An effective ABM strategy focuses on businesses that will most likely benefit from your products and services, and the ones that will deliver significant growth opportunities.
An ABM marketing strategy is not just about marketing though. It needs to have a sales-assisted motion as well. According to Justin, ABM marketing is about understanding who the best-fit future customers for your company are, then building a coordinated effort to bring them to your website, driving engagement through emails and calls, and working together with sales.
Dan describes ABM strategies as “the perfect alignment between sales and marketing, turning insights into action. Getting the right message to the right person at the right time, with the hope of increasing the velocity of accounts down the funnel towards conversion, as well as pipeline generation and revenue.”
The underlying points of ABM strategy
Depending on the size of the audience you’re targeting, an ABM marketing strategy can be operated on three different levels.
With a one-to-many ABM strategy, you could have hundreds of accounts in your program. At this level, your ABM strategy is a smarter form of lead generation.
Think upper funnel awareness plays like content syndication through LinkedIn, using Demandbase to boost awareness, and keeping leads warm with digital display ads.
With one-to-few, you might have a few dozen accounts in your program, using more targeted activities that are vertical-specific.
For example, you might create customized ROI reports for specific targeted accounts or people.
It makes sense to invest in a one-to-one program when you have high-resolution data on who your best-fit customers are. This allows you to customize everything you put in front of those accounts.
The sales outreach on your one-to-one accounts should have a level of customization and research you don’t give to those in your one-to-many or one-to-few program.
Balance and scale
Depending on timing and budget, you may be able to run an ABM strategy on all three levels simultaneously. Dan suggests that if you want to see what works, it’s best to start with a one-to-many program and then work towards one-to-one. However, you may find it easier to get your sales team to work alongside you with a one-to-one account.
Conversely, if you start your ABM marketing strategy with one-to-one because you’re hyper focused on winning a particular account, you might find that level of personalization doesn’t scale easily into something more programmatic.
Whether you start one-to-many or one-to-one, Justin points out that it may take time to get the balance right. You’re best to get your ABM strategies underway and then make use of the technologies and platforms available that allow you to quickly and easily scale your program.
Conduct account research
On per-account spend, you can expect to spend considerably more on one-to-one. If you swing and miss with a one-to-one ABM strategy, it can be costly and damaging.
Which is why any ABM strategy must start with a level of research. This’ll give you certainty that the accounts you’re targeting are high value, will close faster, and can be retained longer, making that extra upfront investment worthwhile.
Justin described a one-to-one ABM strategy he managed at an agency on behalf of Citrix, when they were targeting Wells Fargo. They reviewed the Wells Fargo annual reports, learned their pain points, built specific messaging, tailored content, and discovered that the Wells Fargo CIO loved Formula One racing. It was an invitation to a Citrix-sponsored Formula One event that booked the meeting, and the result was a deal that garnered over $15 million in annual revenue.
It’s just as important to use intent data to inform which accounts you should be targeting within your one-to-many ABM strategies. Scoring different intent signals, using them to spot trends and surface accounts showing intent, means you can move those accounts down the funnel quicker with targeted messaging.
Get sales and marketing teams working together
Effective ABM marketing strategies require that your sales and marketing teams work closely together. This means helping sales reps understand the messaging and then working together to send it through various channels.
Part of this process, particularly with a one-to-many strategy, is dynamic lead generation. This uses intent data over traditional target account lists (TAL) to deliver the quality data your sales teams need to get those meetings booked.
During the webinar, Justin and Dan both discussed the benefits of moving away from target account lists, which can be hard to keep up to date, towards intent data.
The technology that generates intent data from sources such as website traffic, social media activity, and email engagement gives you greater automation. This means the data is more relevant and accurate.
While a TAL identifies potential customers, intent data identifies customers that are actively considering a purchase. A TAL can be a good starting point for your ABM strategy, but you should quickly move to intent data to refine your list, prioritize businesses most likely to convert, and personalize the messages they’re getting as they come in.
ABM marketing is about creating a rich and engaging experience. The more vivid the experience can be, the better the strategy will perform. Likewise, finding the channels that deliver the best results is critical.
Email automation should play a critical role in your ABM outreach, running alongside ad campaigns, so your sales team can reach out with personalized messages designed to drive accounts to targeted landing pages.
Run and measure marketing campaigns
Dan uses a scoring methodology that aggregates three types of data to prioritize target accounts within his ABM strategy. They are:
This is upper funnel or dark funnel data, which tells you what’s happening before an account appears on your site. This data can be extremely valuable, as often accounts that convert will show spikes in intent six to eight months beforehand.
It’s important to identify surging intent keywords and then plug them into platforms like Demandbase and TechTarget to surface accounts that are showing these signals.
People who are searching for unbranded keywords may be in early-stage research and not ready to buy. These accounts can be put into nurture campaigns, while people showing intent towards competitors can be pushed towards your sales team quicker.
Engagement data provides intelligence on middle funnel activity. If you’re seeing accounts on specific web pages, this should determine which product sequence to put them in for outreach activities.
For example, if they’re looking at a product page, they can be put into certain product nurtures, speeding up the process and converting them quicker.
Conversion data is lower funnel activity, such as form fills, demo requests, content downloads, and any other action that would identify the account as an MQL (marketing-qualified lead).
The benefits of ABM strategy
While traditional campaign flows may still work well, the digital experience you provide to your customers is unlikely to hold up for much longer, as competitors start to use sophisticated ABM strategies that deliver truly personalized experiences. More importantly, your customers will start to expect it.
Justin cites a statistic from Forrester that 74% of the buyer’s journey happens online, meaning that digital experiences are becoming more important as younger buyers want to interact with humans less.
A tailor-made marketing approach
By aggregating the three types of data above as part of your ABM strategy, you get an overview of what each account has been doing and who has been doing what.
This holistic view enables you to connect the dots and understand how an account is engaging with your brand. This means you can tailor your outreach, speed up the process, and move them down the funnel towards conversion.
Alignment between teams
Both Justin and Dan agree that the most important part of launching and running an effective ABM marketing strategy is getting buy-in from senior management. But you also need buy-in from marketing and sales teams, analytics, and the brand team.
Dan compared ABM strategy to a “full contact sport where you all cross the finish line together. You need everyone on board to make it happen.”
Reaffirm objectives with your sales and marketing teams. Keep all teams up to date on progress and successes. Be transparent with everyone and jump on calls to explain what’s happening. All of these can help keep your ABM strategy moving.
Justin suggests another approach could be to pick your favorite member of the sales team, ask them to name two or three accounts they’d love to speak with, and then team up to make it happen. This way, you can demonstrate success with one sales rep and generate natural interest in ABM.
Reducing the sales cycle
ABM is a more efficient acquisition strategy that allows you to focus your efforts on accounts most likely to convert. By delivering relevant messages at the right time, to the right person, you can speed up their progress down the funnel.
By building relationships not just with key decision makers, but the people influencing those decisions, you can get them to a decision faster, reducing marketing and sales costs.
Increased lead quality from a well-planned ABM strategy means the accounts you’re focused on are more likely to buy. And because these high-value accounts have a higher CLV (customer lifetime value), your ROI increases further.
The goal of any ABM strategy is to book meetings and generate pipeline. As you go up the ABM funnel towards one-to-many activity, you might also be looking at impressions, clicks, and visits. However, the key metric will always be: did that account convert, and can you see the full journey?
For Justin, switching to an ABM strategy is the most effective way to meet high revenue targets with very little budget as it brings down the cost per acquisition.
Examples of ABM strategy
A great example of how you can use ABM strategy to drive engagement and convert sales is video content. Justin and Dan shared two different examples of how effective video content can be used within an ABM strategy.
At Drift, Justin says “we put our humans out front and center as part of our ABM strategy. For example, when people from target accounts arrive at a landing page, the platform recognizes them and delivers the content that’s been tailored for that account, including serving up video featuring the salesperson who’s responsible for that account, speaking directly by name to the target customer.”
This approach generated a 50% conversion rate from target account to opportunity. Rather than tracking the inbound customer and getting the sales team to reach out, this personalized content means contact between customer and sales is already happening, meaning they can move straight to booking a demo or a meeting.
Dan, who won an award for the video marketing work he did with Lego, also talked about using video advertising in his ABM strategy. In 2022, Demandbase released a video ad feature, which performed well on testing. Using this feature, Dan found that 44% of his target accounts completed the videos they were served.
Email campaigns are also a great way to stay in touch with your target accounts and keep them engaged. You tailor your emails to the specific needs and interests of each account, tracking open rates and click-throughs to feed back into your ABM strategy.
Using Exclaimer to elevate ABM strategy
Using Exclaimer to centrally manage email signatures can elevate the personalization that’s at the heart of your ABM strategy. Exclaimer allows you to effortlessly personalize and tailor the messages you send with every business email, whether they come from sales or marketing teams, and across multiple campaigns.
You can use Exclaimer to embed tailored video content, appointment scheduling, demo requests, and links to dedicated landing pages in your email signatures, helping to speed those high-value target accounts towards conversion.